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  IMPORTANT ARTICLES (1)https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/brain-likes-information-the-same-way-as-money/article28118520.ece (2) Data Protection: Importance, Global   debate, India’s stand     Introduction:   The IT Ministry’s Bill on data protection is scheduled to be introduced in Parliament during the current session. Worldwide, the data flow debate is playing out at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and G20. Why is data valuable?  Data is any collection of information that is stored in a way so computers can easily read it. These days, most people refer to data to mean information about their messages, social media posts, online transactions, and browser searches. Big data refers to the immense amount of data that can now be collected, stored, and analysed to find patterns.    This large collection of information about people’s online habits has become an important source of profits. Your online activity can expose a lot about who you are, and companies find it valuable to use the information to target advertisements to you.    Governments and political parties have also gained interest in these data sets for elections and  policymaking. What exactly about data laws are countries debating?  Data is stored in a physical space. Data is also transported across country borders physically, traveling through underwater cables. These aspects of data flows  —   where it is stored, where it is sent, where it is turned into something useful  —   determines who has access to the data, who profits off the data, who taxes the data, and who “owns” the data.  With these questions in mind, individual governments are developing their own domestic rules and negotiating with each other on a global stage, raising values of national security, economic growth, and privacy. Where does India’s domestic policy on data stand?   India’s recent drafts and statements have strong signals for data localisation, which means that data of Indians (even if collected by an American company) must be stored and processed in India. Along with a Reserve Bank of India directive to payment companies to localise financial data, the Ministry of Commerce’s draft e -commerce policy is currently in public consultation. The IT Ministry has drafted a data protection law that will be introduced in Parliament and has also framed draft intermediary rules. China has developed similar laws, which proponents say allow for a flourishing domestic economy of data centres and data processing by blocking foreign players out. This is why Indian companies, like Reliance and PayTM, usually support data localisation.   Arguments for localisation:      Localisation will he lp law enforcement access the data. Currently, India has to use “mutual legal assistance treaties” (MLAT) with the US to get the data of Indians that are controlled by American companies. By requiring a copy of the data to be stored in India (data mirroring), the government hopes to have more direct control over these companies, including the option to levy more taxes on them.    The government also argues for data localisation on the ground of national security, to prevent foreign surveillance and attacks. Counter-arguments against data localisation:       The US government and companies want cross-border flow of data. It would allow companies to store the data of Indians in the most efficient place in the world. Proponents of free flow of data worry that if all countries begin to protect their data, it may  backfire on India’s own companies that seek global growth.      Another caution is that these laws could bring increased state surveillance, like India’s draft intermediary rules that would require WhatsApp to change its design to proactively filter messages. The company says messages are currently encrypted, meaning neither the company nor any government can see them. What is happening at the global forums?  Trade tensions worldwide are escalating, giving the data flow debate new relevance at the WTO and G20. WTO member countries are negotiating rules about e-commerce, which is the buying and selling of goods and services online. Digital trade contributes more to global GDP than physical trade. India is one of the fastest growing markets, with e-commerce expecting to reach $1.2 trillion by 2021. These laws raise questions about where companies can store, process, and transport data about transactions.    In their proposals, the US and the EU have called to prohibit customs duties on online transactions while China and Pakistan have called for allowing them.    The US has also recommended not having overly burdensome data standards nor localisation requirements, while the EU wants data localisation requirements.    From the G20 meeting in Tsukuba, the Ministerial Statement on Trade and Digital Economy favored cross-border flow of data. India’s stand:  India submitted a November 2017 document opposing any WTO e-commerce negotiations. The digital divide within and across nations is a serious impediment for developing countries to  benefit from Digital Trade. Capacity constraints in developing countries, can be overcome, with timely support of training, and creation of digital infrastructure. This is important, for facilitating a level playing field, in the digital economy, for all countries to take equitable advantage of data free flows. Developing countries need time and policy space  to build deepest understanding of the subject and formulate their own legal and regulatory framework before meaningfully engaging in e-commerce negotiations (3) https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/negotiating-the-forks-in-the-road-of-diplomacy/article28159380.ece (4) The time to act is now. Else Ghalib’s lament, Hum ne maana ki taghaful na   karoge lekin, khaaq ho jayenge ham tum ko khabar hote tak, (I know you may not neglect me/ but it may be too late by the time you act) might just ring true.  (5) https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/college-admissions-delhi-university-india-higher-education-hrd-ministry-5829252/  
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